People are already complaining of over-salting on Toronto streets and sidewalks
It's winter in Toronto once again, meaning along with miserably early sunsets and freezing temperatures, residents can prepare for a whole lot more snow than the sprinkling we've seen so far.
And with the snowfall inevitably comes ice, and with that, corrosive road salt that stains boots, burns doggo paws, and can even rust cars.
Though it's very much appreciated that the city ensures sidewalks and roadways are salted for pedestrian and driver safety in slippery conditions, it seems that sometimes, workers can go a little overboard with the salting — and a few days into December, people already have thoughts on the subject.
Looks like the City of Toronto Salt machines still haven't figured out how evenly distribute the small amount of salt needed. This is harmful to wildlife and will change the chemistry of our streams! @311Toronto pic.twitter.com/BHn2fyinh1— Sheila Colla, Ph.D (@SaveWildBees) December 2, 2020
Citizens have been taking to social media ever since Toronto's first snowfall of the season to complain about city staffers' seeming lack of control when salting some areas, citing thick layers of the rocky chemical chunks long after the snow and ice has melted.
Though road salt is simply halite — the raw mineral form of sodium chloride, or table salt — it can often include anti-caking agents and other chemical additives, and throws off the balance of waterways and soil, along with being dangerous to animals and the environment in general when used in excessive quantities.
Toronto's winter: for ever 2cm of snow , throw 10cm of salt. https://t.co/7dY8HCiUOK— Hanna (@travelmaus) December 4, 2020
"In some urban streams, salt has reached levels high enough to kill organisms," writes the Carey Institute of Ecosystem Studies in a special report on the material.
"However, lower than lethal levels can affect the ability of organisms to function, which impacts the overall health and function of the ecosystem."
It is for this reason, in part, that members of the public are worried about potential over-salting, along with the fact that it's just plain ugly to look at, hard to walk on, damaging to outerwear and a waste of city time and tax dollars when far too much of it is dispersed.
But, it's understandably tough to reach the perfect level between not enough and too much.
@311Toronto Would it be possible to minimize the amount of sidewalk salt in East York? Some sections have what looks like buckets of salt forcing pedestrians and dogs to walk on the roads. #eastyork #winter #safety #Toronto #sidewalks #salt— Karen Hegmann (@karenhegmann) December 2, 2020
According to a report from last month, the city spends $11 million or so dumping around 250 million pounds of rock salt on our roadways over the course of a typical winter — an absolutely staggering amount.
The city says it does its due dilligence to balance everyone's safety with concern for the environment, though. In fact, Toronto was the first major municipality in Canada to introduce a Salt Management Plan, which it has been abiding by since 2001.
Hoping to get a response here in #TorontoDanforth from our local elected officials @peter_tabuns @paulafletcherto what our next steps are on combatting over use of destructive salt that leads into our #sharedwaters during the winter months HT @RAP_Toronto
— Lanrick Bennett Jr. (@myonlinelifenow) November 20, 2020
According to Eric Holmes of Toronto Strategic Communications, the plan ensures proper training of salt distributers, features automated and specially calibrated applicators on trucks to ensure a proper amount of the stuff is doled out, and uses road temperature sensors to " ensure salt is only applied where necessary."
The city also actively uses other materials, like sand and salt brine, a liquid compound that leaves less salt on the road while still effectively removing ice and snow.
Shouldn't the city of Toronto be a certified "Smart for Salt" supplier ? If they were ...they would understand how. Wasteful that is ?...maybe they are trying to kill covid sitting on the sidewalk?? Probably instructions from @epdevilla— Craig Hickingbottom (@CraigHickingbo1) December 4, 2020
"The City is aware that use of rock salt on roads is associated with negative environmental impacts and City staff work to reduce those impacts as much as possible by actively managing salt use," Holmes told blogTO, adding that citizens also have to do their best to make sure they aren't using too much salt on their own private property.
"Residents who are concerned about the amount of salt used on the sidewalk or road can notify 311 and file a service request. The City also reminds private contractors and residents, when necessary to keep routes safe for people, to use an appropriate amount of salt. This information is usually available on the packaging or from the salt manufacturer."
As we enter the chilly time of year, make sure to watch where you step and to invest in some protective booties for your furry friends if walking them on sidewalks and roads.
And as for the salt stains? A mix of equal parts white vinegar and water will do the trick.
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